Mark Cuban, speaking to a Portland detective over the phone in 2011, knew he was in trouble. According to a transcript of the call obtained by the Williamette Week, an alt-weekly in Portland that reported Tuesday on a years-old allegation of sexual assault against the Dallas Mavericks owner, he repeated, at least three times, variations on a theme:
“I’m so fucked.”
He wasn’t, as it turns out, at least not then. Cuban was never charged, the prosecutor citing an absence of evidence. Cuban steadfastly denied the allegation that he had stuck his hand down a woman’s pants and put a finger in her vagina. He’s denying it again to all the reporters emailing him Tuesday night and today. A polygraph test, not admissible in Oregon (or Texas) courts, supported his claim that it never happened. Doctors hired by Cuban’s attorney—the Williamette Week story includes the caveat that expert opinions in criminal cases should be taken with a grain of salt depending on who’s paying them—said the same.
The woman who accused Cuban of assault, reached by the Williamette Week, stands by her story. She apparently never sought any kind of publicity or money. Photos taken while she was posing with Cuban at the Portland bar were “significant,” according to the detective assigned to the case, and two people with the woman at the time of the alleged incident said she told them almost immediately after taking those photos that she had been sexually assaulted.
It’s unlikely that we’ll ever know exactly what happened that night. It looks bad. It is bad. Without a prosecution in the case, and barring revelations of any other alleged misconduct, it’s unlikely Cuban will face significant repercussions from the report in Portland. Others keep repeating that it’s likely to tank his possible political aspirations, but allegations of sexual assault and misconduct haven’t necessarily doomed the campaigns of presidents past or present.
That’s troubling, and indicative of the pervasive sexist culture that makes today’s “Me Too” movement so necessary.
What’s especially troubling in Cuban’s case is how, in spite of such allegations, he allowed an extreme microcosm of that culture to fester in his own house, as detailed in a Sports Illustrated story about a Mavs business office whose environment was openly hostile to women. (The way much of the Dallas sports media responded to that story is also, in its way, representative of that culture.)
While a third-party investigation is pending and the Mavs have announced their intent to make things right, the evidence here is already more clear-cut. Cuban, at the very least, was blind to a culture of harassment in his organization, permitting the toxic values that lead to a society where men feel they can get away with drunkenly groping women in bars. If anything’s going to result in real consequences for Cuban, it’s that.
Regardless, the right question isn’t whether Cuban is screwed. The question is whether he should be.